Commonly used to treat clinical depression, or even prevent it from recurring, antidepressants are highly debated. Many medical professionals prescribe them as a way to help treat many psychological health conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sometimes medical professionals prescribe antidepressants as supplements to chronic pain treatments. However, the question still remains, “Do antidepressants really work?” Continue reading for a comprehensive answer to this highly debated question.
Do Antidepressants Work?
Studies have shown that they do work in most patients; however, as with any other treatment there are those who do not receive the same benefits. According to the study of The Royal College of Psychiatrists, 50%-65% of those treated with antidepressants saw improvements in their depression symptoms compared to 25%-30% of those taking placebos.
The thing is that antidepressants work better in those with moderate to severe depression than it does in those with mild depression symptoms. Plus, the medication should be prescribed with other psychological treatments for better results. As for those who suffer from mild symptoms, a different treatment plan consisting of daily exercise routines, talking therapies and other self-managed methods would be better.
How Do Antidepressants Work?
Antidepressants were created using chemicals that are thought to increase the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters like serotonin and noradrenaline can help to improve mood and emotions. There are other neurotransmitters which can interrupt the pain signals sent by your nerves. These neurotransmitters are the reason that antidepressants are used to help those who have chronic pain.
Although antidepressants have been proven to help treat depression symptoms, it is important to remember that they do not treat the cause. The cause of depression is usually an outside effect, which is why antidepressants are never prescribed alone. They are always prescribed alongside psychological therapy in order to help treat more severe depression and other mental health conditions triggered by emotional distress.
Common Side Effects of Antidepressants
One reason people ask, “Do antidepressants work,” is because of the multitude of side effects which make it seem as though they do not work. Some of the side effects include:
- Increased weight
- Loss of libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Extreme tiredness
- Inability to sleep
- Dry mouth
- Blurry sight
- Bowel irritation
- Easily irritated or agitated
FAQs on Safe Use of Antidepressants
Besides “Do antidepressants work,” there’re many other concerns about taking antidepressants that you should know before using to make sure that everything will be alright as well as get the best result out of the medication.
1. How Long Do Antidepressants Take to Work?
Antidepressants are meant to work long-term, for this reason they work really slow. You may not notice an immediate change as you do with most medications. Instead, you will begin to notice their affects about 2-3 weeks later. After 4-6 weeks you notice their full effect. Take note, that everyone reacts differently and you may notice the benefits sooner or later than the estimated time frames.
2. What If I Forgot to Take Antidepressants?
It is important that you keep proper dosages at the proper times. When you forget a dose, try to take it within the next 2-3 hours. If it’s longer before you remember, then wait until your next scheduled time. Do not change the dose on your own; if you feel you need a different dosage, consult your doctor.
3. Once I Feel Better, Do I Stop Taking Them?
Always take the complete prescription of medication. When your doctor creates a treatment plan for you, you must work through the whole plan. If you stop before you are supposed to, the symptoms will most likely return. If you feel you want to stop, make sure you talk with your doctor first.
4. What About Alcohol?
Alcohol and antidepressants do not mix well. If you combine your antidepressants with alcohol, you increase your risk of falls and accidents due to drowsiness. Even if those side effects do not occur, alcohol is a depressant, which may actually make your depression worse.
This is not to say that you have to completely stop. Once you have been taking your medication for a few months, you may have a drink here and there. However, you need to remain cautious and pay attention to how your body reacts. Never consume more than one or two drinks in one sitting.
5. Can Pregnant Women Use Antidepressants?
Most of the time pregnant women are requested to cease all medications; however mood swings that occur as your hormones change may worsen your depression. If you have to, it is vital that you work closely with your doctor and ensure that you are following the proper prescription as your baby is still developing. If you do continue to take antidepressants, it is likely that your baby may have withdrawal symptoms after birth.
There are a few alternative medications that your doctor may suggest. Or, your doctor and you may decide that the depression symptoms may not be as bad as the possible risks to your baby.
6. Can I Breastfeed My Baby If I’m on Antidepressants?
Many times the advantages of breastfeeding outweigh the disadvantages. Your milk will only contain trace amount of your antidepressants, plus there are antidepressants which are safer for breastfeeding mothers. This will be a personal decision that you make with the consultation of your doctor.
7. What Kind of Withdral Symptoms Will I Have When I Stop?
Generally, you will only have withdrawal symptoms when you stop cold-turkey, especially if you have been taking them longer than six months.
The abrupt cessation of your antidepressant medications may possibly lead to irritability, anxiety, insomnia, vivid dreams, headaches, dizziness, exhaustion, achy muscles and other flu-like symptoms, or nausea. There may even be times when your depression symptoms return.
Keep in mind that not all antidepressants are the same. They do work and some will leave you with withdrawal symptoms while others will not. Always talk with your doctor if you are concerned that you may be having withdrawal symptoms.